mercredi, décembre 15, 2010


In the course of my work as an event organiser, I love it when I get to organise an event that reflects my interest. And this year, for New Year's Eve, we are holding an Egyptian Ball!

So, I have been immersing myself with middle eastern flavoured music and was thrilled to find this on youtube.

And this :

The decor will be superb as usual with best images of Egypt from floor to ceiling 20 feet high.

I look forward to my evening with Isis, Bastet and Nefertari. I know, I enjoy the ladies and cats and just maybe a game of mancala!

jeudi, décembre 09, 2010

Moondustwriter's Thursday - Featuring More Fall Poetry Finalists

One Stop Poetry Features Finalists from the Fall Poetry Competition “Through a Child’s Eyes”

Have you ever gone out into a garden in the dead of winter and found an unexpected flower blooming? I feel this way at One Stop Poetry. I am constantly being astounded at the beautiful writing and talent of the poets we have the honor of featuring. Here are two of those talents. Ninot Aziz and Shashidhar Sharma entered the fall poetry competition and were finalists. Their poetry submissions are below.

If you have not already read the winner's poem, we want to remind you to go to Spark Bright Magazine and read our Renee Sigel's poem.

Ninot Aziz was one of One Stop Poetry's fall competition finalists. I'm giving you a tiny peek into her life as a poet because we want to come back and do a feature after her book comes out.

Read the feature by Moondustwriter and poem by ninotaziz at One Shot Poetry here.

lundi, novembre 29, 2010

I am Only One but I am One

Sherry, a friend who found and embraced me over at Poets United posted this video on her blog, StarDreaming with Sherry Blue Sky

It is the most beautiful video I have seen in a long while. And my pledge to make a difference is to try and save as many legends and folklores of the world from disappearing.

And I thank my publisher Utusan Publishers, especially my Editor Fuzana, for their support and encouragement in making this a reality.

dimanche, novembre 28, 2010

Remembering Dad

This was Dad, in his 20s.
That's me, a one year old baby.
I am afraid that is all I can muster now.

vendredi, novembre 26, 2010


A musical based on the music of Culture Club would be fantabulous. This is why :

jeudi, novembre 04, 2010

Why I write poetry

Shakespeare could turn any subject on earth to poetry. The obvious would be love, legends and drama. But politics and war too became bold and dramatic when given the Shakespeare treatment. Homer turned the Trojan War into the story of the face that launched a thousand ships, but who actually penned those famous words? Shakespeare's nemesis, Christopher Marlowe. Today, a hen can launch a thousand pens. And magic can inspire poets to stay glued to a 10" screen in the witching hour.

Did Shakespeare, Marlowe or Homer and countless other poets and writers know that their names would be immortalised, beyond kings, the beauty of the day and the fame of the infamous criminals of the century? With the exception of the prophets, writers are the most recognised names throughout time. And their work, unlike Science, Mathematics and Astronomy remained relevant and readable by the masses, not only scholars and academicians of the sixteenth century, those of the 21st century still read them just as much! Children read Bronte, and adults read Rowling. Lovers read Austen, cynics read Jung.

It cannot be emphasised enough that language and poetry are universal. There is Kahlil Gibran, Verlaine and Tolstoy. Tagore, Keats and Li Po. Shakespeare, Bronte and Hugo. Poets from every continent and country. Their words heal, calm, ignite. Kill, inspire, drown one in misery.

An expert is not an expert until he has written a lengthy thesis followed by a best-selling book. It is said that a writer never takes a vacation. He is either writing about his thoughts or thinking about his writing. One is compelled to write, sometimes to feverish heights. It is inborn, instinctive, incroyable.

The power of the written word of which poetry is the highest form - is the question of legacy. That is why writers are compelled to write. Not so that their name would be immortalised.

But that their words be whispered reverently upon a white page forever.

You can find poetry by ninotaziz here, ici and di-sini.

samedi, octobre 30, 2010

An Ode to My Grandmother

Rahmah Nik, the only daughter of Nik bin Besah and Yang Chik. granddaughter of storyteller Bebunga from Endau. An avid reader, Syair Ken Tambuhan, Hikayat Tajul Muluk and Hikayat Abdullah enthralled her. It was the 1930s, life was charmed yet turbulent with her policeman father travelling around the country. He was honoured for saving Dato Hussein's life during the war.

My grandmother
Young reader
Lovely daughter
Cikgu Rahmah Nik, young teacher in her teens. She taught school children during the day and adult literacy classes at night in Pekan, Pahang. At a school fair, a visiting teacher - Jaafar Awang Pekan bought a blue muffler she knitted from her. Little did she know, Jaafar fell in love with the hazel eyed vivacious teacher in kebaya there and then.
My grandmother
Young teacher
Beguiling beauty

Puan Rahmah Nik, married at eighteen years of age. This was not an easy endeavour as Jaafar was engaged to another in Chenor. The break up caused a minor family riot which took years to settle. But both Jaafar and Rahmah were very much in love and remained so for the rest of their lives. Remembering the war, she spoke of tapioca days and thread made of pineapple leaves, saving matches to last the day. Hiding neighbours in the kitchen, masquerading as maids. Sisters masquerading as boys. Later they were involved in the National Teacher's Union, fighting for a better life, then for the country. There were conferences and rallies to attend. She gave up jewellery and time for the cause.

My grandmother
Good neighbour, quick witted
Passionate about Malaya

Tok Rahmah Nik, grandmother at age 41 when first granddaughter was born far away in Australia. Together with Tok Jaafar, they were pioneers, he as headmaster and she was a teacher at the first Felda school in Lurah Bilut. Life was hard at the Rumah Kongsi - she negotiated with the Orang Asli for supplies as they loved to barter for batik, and other household stuff.

My grandmother
Knew hardship first hand
She kept the family together

Mak Chu Rahmah Haji Nik, back in Chenor was mother of ten, and Wanita UMNO leader. The household doubled up with nieces and nephews coming to stay. It was not luxurious but everyone had enough to eat and most importantly, the discipline to study hard. Everyone of the children and adopted children earned a place in residential schools.

My grandmother
Generous as she knew how
Problems to be solved - now

Tok Rahmah Haji Nik took in her eldest grandchild, yours truly who needed to be schooled in AlQuran and religion. At age 10, I could not read the Al-Quran nor understood the need to pray. Grandfather, Grandma and Tok Lebai took charge and I finished reading Quran the year after. Long after I left Chenor, I was told how Tok Lebai Ismail praised my ease and determination to read the Al Quran until his dying days. He passed away when I was overseas in Canada.

My grandma cooked breakfast for the poor students in school and entered craft fairs. She held Tupperware and Arcopal parties for the ladies. At night, she would faithfully prepare her notes for lessons the next day and she wrote in the most meticulous and beautiful handwriting I have known.

We watched Peyton Place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, P Ramlee on Friday nights. School holidays started with Tok Jaafar going to the train-station in Mentakab to fetch my aunties and uncles who returned for the holidays from MCKK, STF, SDAR, SEMSAS, STAR and more. She took me to do my IC. When I was to be sent to boarding school, Sekolah Seri Puteri, Tok Jaafar and Tok Rahmah drove me to Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at Hotel Asia.

My grandmother
Showered me with attention
Told me stories - Ken Tambuhan
To think through problems
Always surmountable

Hajah Rahmah Haji Nik went to Mekah after Tok Jaafar recovered from a prolonged illness which left him bones and skin. Whenever he was ill, that old blue muffler faithfully kept him warm. He recovered and they went for pilgrimage the year after. This started a passion for travelling in Tok Rahmah. After Tok Jaafar passed on, Tok Rahmah travelled to Jordan, Turkey and Egypt. She bought a little camera and used it with sheer delight.

My grandmother
Late starter traveller
Stories from abroad

Hajah Rahmah Yang Chik, passed away after being cared for by my mother in Taman Melawati. She was in pain, we told her stories and she wanted to hear Ken Tambuhan for the last time. As always, the Classic Nasional on the radio was by her side. She had always wanted her final resting place to be in Pekan where her father and husband were laid to rest. So we gathered as family in Pekan, the sky was overcast, there was the gentlest of drizzle.

My grandmother
Is no longer with me
Her last quiet breathe
Softly exhaled
She left gently

A lifetime of purpose.


You will find more reflections on Grandma here.

mardi, octobre 26, 2010

Hajah Rahmah Haji Nik

My grandmother Hajah Rahmah Haji Nik just passed away.


vendredi, octobre 22, 2010

Romancing Rodin

Auguste Rodin of France must be the greatest sculptor of the modern era. Among his most famous sculptures are The Age of Bronze (L'age d'airain) 1877, The Walking Man (L'homme qui marche) 1877-78, The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais) 1889, The Kiss 1889, The Thinker (Le Penseur) 1902.

Le Penseur

Inspiré par Dante
Existence tourmentée
Pièce de beau de l'art

Le génie de Rodin
Façonnés en bronze
En face de son musée

Au lieu de la Porte de l'Enfer

Mots par ninotaziz

However, it was not Rodin's sculptures that made me try to get to know him better. Seriously, Rodin's sculptures in particular The Thinker was generally more recognizable than the master himself. Incidentally, The Thinker was originally called The Poet and was fashioned after Dante in his journey through Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso in the 14th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. The Kiss too was inspired by this literary work.

Coming back to my study of Rodin - a few years ago, I was enamoured with Camille Claudel and her work as a sculpture, breaking new grounds in a male dominated era. Claudel was an apprentice, muse and lover of Rodin. Rodin met Claudel when she was merely 18 years of age, already a fiercely determined young woman of the arts tutoring under Alfred Boucher. Rodin was 43 then. This artistic influence the pair had on each other resulted in a stormy relationship. Claudel inspired Rodin and sat for many of his figures, and she assisted him on commissions, only to break away from the master to develop her own style.

Camille Claudel was Rodin's soul mate but he was loath to part from his life partner and mother of his son- Rose Beuret whom he married in the final year of his life. In any case, their relationship ended, and Camille Claude eventually was placed in asylum by her family.

Rodin's work, mainly commissioned by various patrons were mostly inspired by great stories. Here is a story of sacrifice and compassion.

Calais, beautiful French Port
Fell during the War of 100 Years'
If not for Philippa of Hainault
The city had to greatly suffer

All were doomed, unless
Six nobles were willing to die
Accept the English conquest
The burghers heroic self-sacrifice

Queen Phillipa's intervention
She begged Edward III for mercy
For fear of bad omen
Towards her pregnancy

The Queen's tears for her unborn child
Saved the burghers of Calais

In this 1988 production, Gerard Depardieu plays Rodin and Isabelle Adjani is Camille Claudel.

Words by ninotaziz
Copyright 2010 © ninotaziz.
All rights reserved.

mardi, octobre 19, 2010

Madly In Love with Victor Hugo

Last night I fell madly in love with Victor Hugo.

I have never met him, or walked along
Avenues that bear his name.
I love the house where he lived in Paris
Where he touched all these beautiful things
I love his drawings that revealed a tumultous soul
who longed for a fortress home.
Stroke by stroke, a dash - the light
He kept his art from the world at large

So that his words take centrestage
Les Miserables - the greatest story of the nineteenth century
The Hunchback of Notre Dame gave Paris her sanctuary
But most of all I love Victor's words of wisdom, of love
Of a closeness not to religion, but God.
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
- Victor Hugo

Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved - Victor Hugo
There is nothing like dream to create the future
- Victor Hugo

Love is like a tree
It grows on its own accord
It puts down deep roots
Into our whole being
- Victor Hugo
All the forces in the world is not as powerful as an idea whose time has come - Victor Hugo
I love Victor Hugo.
My new blog dedicated to my attempt at French poetry
is entitled La poesie de ninotaziz et Victor Hugo

A lovely letter from Alliance Francaise today!

Dear Ms Aziz,
Many thanks for your contribution to our newsletter and your beautiful poems! We will publish them in our next issue.

Best regards,

Marine Douchin
Cultural Events Coordinator
Alliance Française de Kuala Lumpur
15, Lorong Gurney 54100 Kuala Lumpur
+60 (0)3 26 94 78 80


vendredi, octobre 15, 2010

Poetry by Carrie Burtt

One Shot Poetry

Some things when they fall they shatter and seem beyond repair
while others seem to brace the fall but invisibly they are impaired
a heart can see another's fall and then itself break in two
but tears like glistening diamonds will fall and make it new
God bless the heart that is broken for another's pain it has truly felt and seen
but God help the heart that will not break for it is surely broken indeed.

What The Trees Know
The trees know a certain unity that we do not understand.
They face what the wind blows in, and together they shall stand.
When autumn's wind reaches out to them her subtle hand,
the leaves turn hue and fall and still together they do land.
The forest knows a certain hope that lingers in winter's cold.
It is the certainty of spring when new leaves will all unfold.
Yet, in the swelter of summer, at the hand of man alone,
a flicker becomes a flame and takes back what nature has bestowed.
Still, trees know a certain peace that man cannot recall.
For united they will stand, and still together they will fall.

Like A Forest

This life is like a forest and our world is but a tree
and humanity is a flow of many colors like an abundant growth of leaves
each spread out and grow reaching toward the sky
and when the time is right we break loose and start to fly
but like the changing seasons our flight is soon a fall
we reach out like a weary hand and embrace heaven's call.

Carrie Burtt is a fellow poet whose work I particularly connect with and admire. I think the main reason for this is that Carrie writes from the heart. Her blog Hope Whisper is amazingly uplifting with images to match. Carrie says, "I have been writing since I was a child, but I became a "mad scientist" with a pen and paper about 13 years ago,therefore this blog was born. Hope you find a glimmer of inspiration here." Incidently, both Carrie and I started writing when we turned 11. A lovely coincidence!

Like most of us in the poet blogsphere, we have a separate blog as a journal and Carrie recaps her special thoughts in her blog Dancing with Elephants. And I guess when Carrie turns philosophical, she escapes to her blog What A Seagull never Told You.

I love her all the more when I see that Carrie loves the movies The Curious Case of Bejamin Button, Under The Tuscan Sun, Forrest Gump, Ghost and most of all Willow! Carrie is one of the many special friends I have had the privilege to know over the blog. Here, we do not really know the lives behind the poet in great detail. Which is why Robert at Poets United is doing such a marvelous job introducing us to each other in his Life Of A Poet interview series. Nevertheless, the poetry is the first and foremost link that strikes a connection, a bond that grows stronger with time.

To Carrie, from half way around the world - keep on writing!

lundi, octobre 11, 2010

Classics Lost In Time

The Orient Express - a once in a life-time romance

Enjoying the sunset

Browsing through the inherited Encyclopedia

Dictionaries and thesaurus

Reading unabridged Charles Dickens at one sitting

Receiving a pen pal letter

Turntables - adjusting that needle onto your favourite single
A moment of bliss

Writing a heartfelt letter

dimanche, octobre 10, 2010

Memories from the garden

Memory woven garden
To you I come for solace
For - it is here I remember
I am born of gentle grace
- ninotaziz

Today, in my garden, I felt closest to my late grandmother. She was beautiful, a great cook and maybe above all, loved her garden.

An account of my reminiscence can be found here.

dimanche, octobre 03, 2010


For decades, Hindus and Muslims fought over the Ayodhya claim. Ayodhya is the ancient city, birthplace of Rama no less. Its beauty, by the banks of the Sarayu River, was made timeless in the poet Valmiki's Ramayana. My retelling of this story can be found here.

After decades of bloodshed, over sixty years, a court decision has decided on the matter. The decision is welcome - if only to end bitter and deadly clashes if not for its justice.

Let us have a quick look at the Ayodhya history and debate.

Said to be the most ancient of Hindu cities, Ayodhya was the capital of the legendary Kingdom of Kosala. My retelling based on Valmiki's Ramayana tells the story of King Dasaratha, King of Ayodhya who longed for a son. A son, Rama was born to Queen Kausalya followed by three other sons. After many trial, tribulations and terror fighting the evil Ravana, Rama returned to Ayodhya in triumph. This story and legend is regaled throughout Asia in many forms. Incidently, the wayang kulit tulen Kelantan is based on this epic as well with many improvisation.

Now, back to Ayodhya's real history.

After thousand of years practising Hindu, in the 16th century, there was a wave of Muslim conquerors and Mughal rule in Ayodhya. Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India built the Babri mosque in 1527. For over two hundred years, debate over its existance on an ancient Hindu temple site as discussed here was cause for fierce fighting. In the 1800s, the courts however generally gave in to the status quo that the mosque shall be respected and kept safe.

In 1992, the Babri Mosque was razed to the ground by Hindu extremist. A monument of India's history erased - but not its significance. If at all, it set aflame century old disputes and after the ashes settled, its ambers slowly fumed bigotry in its place.

Some might wonder why I am interested in this debacle and the resulting outcome. Well, I constantly read and research world legends. When a legendary epic like this, albeit a very religiously revered epic, becomes the basis of modern day news, I am piqued by how much it would influence the courts.

It is also a story of clashing beliefs and respect.

Hopefully, a story of reconciliation - if possible.

mercredi, septembre 29, 2010

Interview with Poets United by Robert Lloyd

Photo taken on one of the happiest day of the writer's life.

Have you ever met a person, where after no more than 10 minutes, you have complete adoration and respect for them? I recently did when I took the time to sit down and shape my most recent interview. This week for our The Life of a Poet Interview I was lucky to have a wonderful back forth exchange with Zalina Abdul Aziz, known to us at Poets United as Ninot Aziz.

For full interview, click here.

mardi, septembre 28, 2010

The most romantic movies ever

This is my list of the most romantic movies ever.

Just the thing to fall in love again...with all time classic Romeo and Juliet 1968 as my favourite.

Chocolat - Sinfully delicious

Moulin Rouge - Heartbreaking...

Shakespeare In Love

I will have poetry in my life
And adventure
And love

Titanic - Thunderous

Notting Hill - a bubble of joy

Cyrano de Bergerac - A movie of epic proportions

Romeo & Juliet

My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, & known too late!

dimanche, septembre 26, 2010


Are you attending the Willow Ball?
Poets - check out my preparations here.

samedi, septembre 18, 2010

Dances to lull the senses - The Gamelan

Ten years ago, I was a busy executive stressed out from incessant work and frustrated that my writing career had not taken off. Irani was just born, Iman and Inas just started school. We turned to theatre and music. Iman took piano lessons, Inas, the violin and I joined a gamelan class at the Actors Studio Academy.

We learnt traditional gamelan songs like Timang Burung, Togok, Lambang Sari and more. These were classic slow paced soothing music. Three years later, I joined the GiS gamelan group under the patronage of Angela Hijaz and we learned the Balinese gamelan at her celebrated estate Rimbun Dahan under the strict and watchful eyes of a Javanese Master, Pak Wayan. The gamelan was fast paced and more intricate. My daughter Iman joined the orchestra as well. Inas took the opportunity to continue her violin lessons with Pak Samsuddin Lamin who stayed nearby. Needless to say, those were lovely days.

The Gamelan Pahang of Malaysia originated from the Riau Lingga courts. A Lingga princess brought with her the full set of the gamelan orchestra when she was presented as a bride to the Pahang prince in 1811. The original set is kept at the Royal Museum in Pekan Pahang. In time, Tengku Mariam Sultan Ahmad took the gamelan to Terengganu in the early 1900s. There used to be 77 songs, faithfully recorded by the Pahang princess before she became the Sultanah of Terengganu. Now, less than 40 survive. As for the accompanying dances, less than 10 are actively performed.

This dance and song is the Lambang Sari which is an ode to the Malay princesses of old.

Lambang Sari, gak puteri

Terlindung dari pandangan
Indah gerak tari puteri
Bagai di dalam kayangan
Inilah lagu Lambang Sari

Damai di taman larangan
Nasi di hidang, sanggul di cucuk
Tapi apakan daya impian
Hati sayang diri berkecamuk

Nusantara berbelah bagi
Raja dan Sultan bermuafakat
Puteri ditugaskan pergi
Negeri berdamai, janji terikat

Gak Puteri membakar diri

Lambang Sari - The Song of The Princess

Hiding from mortal gaze
Swaying to the gentle breeze
Princesses at rest and play
Bewitching music of bamboo reeds

Enchanted garden, their sanctuary
A charmed life of royal proportions
Yet many trapped deep within
Yearning for her heart's desires

The peace of the land their charge
To be presented to her new liege
As bride, with accompanying entourage
With gifts and a silver box of betel leaves

Like a candle in the wind
Giving light, yet burning within

Finally I found a worthy recording of the dance Timang Burung, one of the most enchanting aand recognizable gamelan classic. The dancers are young but their subtle and precise form and movement promise the continuance of this art. Their movements depict that of a playful bird the princess Raden Galuh found on the beach.
Timang Burung

Raden Galuh eloknya puteri
Terkenal seluruh Nusantara
Cintanya pada Raden Inu Kertapati
Sehidup semati kiranya

Bila asyik rindu rinduan
Turun puteri bermain dipantai
Dapat seekor burung idaman
Bermain dia lemah gemalai

Menari inang menari nari
Dari pagi hingga ke petang
Cantik puteri berseri seri
Dari dulu hingga sekarang

The princess pined for her prince
Danced on the beach to sooth her heart
A bird of paradise had her bewitched
She swore they would never part

The next song is a classic recording of the dance and song Kunang Kunang Mabuk from the 1980s by the group SUKTRA of Terengganu Darul Iman. Pls ignore the first few irritating seconds...
Kunang Kunang Mabuk (Dazed Fireflies)

Bewitched by moonlight
The Firefly dances
Til it is time for flight
To meet the enchantress


My gamelan class at Actors Studio - Haris, Keiko, myself, Ana, Suchin, Maya and Candice with teachers from The Gamelan Club Susan, Gillian,Shahanum, Wai Fan, Engu and Datuk Faridah Merican.

Mum and Grandmother with Iman, Inas and Irani attended the graduation performance.

Poetry Copyright@2010 ninotaziz

mardi, septembre 14, 2010

Hari Raya Not So Long Ago and Now

This smile on my daughter's face reminded me why we 'Balik Kampung'' every year. This picture was taken at her Tok Mek's house. I have detailed and placed pictures of this year's trip home in my family journal blog here. It was a memorable trip to say the least.

Two years ago after Hari Raya I was inspired to set up a new blog on pantun, the first post was one of my first pantun entitled Tapai Pulut inspired by the tapai my mother-in-law made that year.

Tapai pulut daun rambai
Masak ranum dek taburan ragi
Mari kita beramai ramai
Balek kampung beraya lagi

Masak ranum dek taburan ragi
Di makan bersama teh bunga
Balek kampung beraya lagi
Hari Lebaran sungguh mulia

Dimakan bersama teh bunga
Tak tinggal jua lemang dan rendang
Hari Lebaran sungguh mulia
Yang dekat tersayang, yang jauh dikenang

And yet I feel a bit blue coming back in KL. Before Hari Raya, I was upset over the advert on TV3. After Hari Raya, all over the news, the investigation of the gruesome murder of self-made millionaire Datuk Sosilawati is scrutineered in detail. The murder of the Ustazah and child by a neighbour is resolved in lightning speed. Three teenagers go gallivanting during Hari Raya for days whereabouts unknown causing heartache to a worried mother.

In the days surrounding Hari Raya, a pastor from Florida showed how me crazy the world can get. I was therefore gratified to see a post by a fellow poet and blogger, Stafford Ray.

Stafford demonstrated there is still hope for this world.

vendredi, septembre 03, 2010


We will be going home up-north for Aidil Fitri. Our annual pilgrimage to the wholesome and true.

Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir Batin. Drive safe. Keep safe.

And don't forget to listen to these timeless Lagu Raya before they disappear altogether.

Rudi & Ninot
Iman Inas Irani Ilena Ikesha

dimanche, août 29, 2010

My Merdeka Thoughts

My precious bird nest ferns and our flag

Merdeka will be here soon as we can see in the neighbourhood - and pretty much around the country. This is our Jalur Gemilang flying in the wind in our garden doing double duty for our household and our wonderful neighbours - Cikgu Rahim and Cikgu Ani. And those are my precious bird nest ferns which you will see in abundance around our little garden.

Now, while I do not subscribe to the notion that my homeland is merely 53 years old, Merdeka is just as good a time as any to celebrate the coming of age of our nation. First let me explain my earlier statement. For me, my home - which we now call Malaysia, has been in existance millions of years ago when the tectonic plates moved to severe Australia from the continents. A 400 year colonial rule does not obliterate this reality and history. It is however, part and parcel of our country, as necessary to the story as any other part.

My homeland witnessed the birth of the oldest rainforest in the world.

And the most beautiful coral seas surrounding our shores.

The peninsula saw the movement of people to and fro the Kra Ithmus from the ancient cities Langkasuka to Gangga Nagara. Settlements began to fill out at the mouth of major rivers, sea-masters braved the pirate infested seas to seek new territories.

...and bewitched Ptolemy to call it Aurea Chernosese.

At the end of the 16th century after the fall of Melaka, copies of the ancient manuscript Sulalat us-Salatin or Sejarah Melayu began to appear. And the pantun was a unique feature of the highly stylised Malay literature. In no other form of poetry that a relationship between the metaphor and the reality is so intricately woven.


In the 18th and 19th centuries, if not earlier, the peninsular was called Tanah Melayu or Malaya for obvious reasons. There is a song that brings a threatening tear when I listen to it. It goes...

Sungguh gemilang negeriku
Yang ku puja
Oh! Tanah Melayu
Di serata dunia
Harum semerbak
Namamu oh! Malaysia...

Intrigue was bound during this era, especially in the tin rich land of Perak. The Wikipedia's account of it is the mildest and full of diplomacy,

"By the terms of the Pangkor Treaty, the Resident was an adviser whose decision were binding in all matters except for custom or religion. The first Resident had been murdered in 1874, precipitating a war that left nearly all high-rankingMalay officials either dead or in exile. Low's appointment marked a return to civil authority.

The intrigue, for now, can wait. It suits the purpose of my story to relate that the then Sultan of Perak, Sultan Abdullah was exiled to Seychelles. Described in Seychelles as a most Universal of Man, the Sultan mastered French, Creole and English. His favourite tune among others included a classic 18th century chanson de Francais - La Rosalie composed by Pierre Jean de Beranger. It has now been established that this is the origin of our national anthem Negaraku.The story here.

Back to Sultan Abdullah. The Sultan travelled to England and certainly, it is not too farfetched to deduce that he visited France. This was in the 1880s. Victor Hugo, himself a political exile during the reign of Napolean III, championed the cause of many and constantly took up cases with the government of Queen Victoria.

And now I come to the matter of the pantoum. The Larousse Encyclopedique says:
Pantoum ou Pantoun, n, m, (mot malais), Poeme a forme fixe, emprunte par les romantiques aa la poesie malaise - Encycl.. Le antoum fut introduit dans notre poesie par V Hugo (Orientaales) et Th Gautier, et epris par Baudelaire(Harmonie du soir), Banvillee, Leconte de Lisle...

In short,it says that the pantun was introduced into the french poetry by Victor Hugo and Theophile Gautier. However, Victor Hugo was already aware of the pantun form in the 1830s. Nevertheless, in the 1880s there was a surge of interest in the pantoum and translations of original Malay pantuns into French.

Sultan Abdullah was a cultured Universal Man of presence and style who appreciated music and poetry. Victor Hugo was the French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France. I can imagine HRH and Victor Hugo together with their many friends and associates having political and cultural discussions including exchanging pantun at the end of a chilly winter evening. Such as this...

Les papillons jouent alentour sur leurs ailes;
Ils volent ver la mer, pres de la chaine des rochers
Mon coeur s'est senti malade dans ma poitrine
Depuis mes premiers jours jusqu'a a l'heure presente

I became acquainted with this wondrous history in part during my days at the Royal Lake Club. I would like to acknowledge the extensive research and article written by Jon Azman -Negaraku and its Parisian Roots. More importantly, the first hand information supplied by the great grand daughter of Sultan Abdullah, Raja Teh Zaitun Raja Kamarulzaman, aka Mak Ungku.

However, the tale of the pantoum's origin is my conclusion, albeit with heavily romanticised slant, based on facts and timeline involved.

More references from Wikipedia, from Indonesia, here and here. Also, do refer to Francois Rene Daillie's Alam Pantun Melayu.

My thoughts on Merdeka in 2009 and 2008.


Mak Ungku and I had one of our chit chats yesterday. And as usual, it was precious as ever. Jerusalem and her French classes were on her mind. Oh yes, London in the 1940s too.

Then I told her about my recent endeavours into pantun. Mak Ungku then shared the beautiful Omar Khayyam poetry which she recited off the cuff in English, French and Bahasa. And of Haji Hamilton who translated the Omar Khayyam into Bahasa Melayu. The following summed up our little tête-à-tête

Duduk di sini bernyanyi-nyanyian
Padang terkukur jadi kayangan

vendredi, août 27, 2010


Robert Lloyd runs Poets United, a community and blogroll for poets who blog. There are currently 80 of us poets who make up this fast growing community from about 20 countries. Of course many of us take part in other memes and groups, so the community is much larger.

When I started poetry blogging, I had just come out from a long hiatus of poetry writing. Writing is part and parcel of work and I am on my third book of Malay Folklore anthology. But poetry? I thought I had left that part of me buried somewhere - most likely in my daughters' room as I see poetry blooming there - fast and furious.

Now I write about 4 to 5 poems a week, including one pantun in Malay and one very short stanza in French. The prompts help but sites like One Shot Wednesday run by moondustwriter, Pete, Brian and Dustus are open ended and free for all. This makes it slightly more difficult. It is for One Shot Wednesday that I dedicate one poem in three languages - making it a weekly challenge I look forward to.

Back to Poets United, Robert recently gave a shout out for help. The blogroll contains five to six simultaneous blogs. I offered some prompts for the Thursday Think Tank which Robert decided to use. One of my prompt was based on water and a quote from Jacques Cousteau.

"We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one"
~Jacques Cousteau

Robert wrote:

Water everywhere and not a drop to drink. I don’t know offhand who said this but it’s a pretty eye opening statement. It makes you think. When you read the word water what comes to mind? What do you think of? Is it that Evian is backwards for naïve? Is it the
deserts without the water of life? It could possibly be the
rain falling from a warm summer sky. I’m sure water makes all of our minds race so we cannot wait to see what “Flows” from your pens and minds this week.

This week’s prompt, quote and photo was provided to us by Nino Taziz. Thank you Nino for an inspiring prompt and helping us out here at Poets United.

If you would like to know more about Nino please visit the blog below:

Thank you Robert.

This is my contribution:

Behold The Last Drop
Imagine this beauty to be
The last drop of water on earth
Dried up are all the seas
Pent up are the clouds above

Dunes across the continents
Deserts stretched to the poles
Humans long forgotten
Encased as fossils below

Along came two aliens
Who studied the world's
"There was once water and gardens...
Then it all dried up mysteriously."

For the aliens could not
That humans could be so ignorant
As to destroy life's precious element
And thus the life's cycle ends

- self annihilation...

Do read other contributions based on the water prompt here.

This theme is close to heart because I feel a sense of urgency building up on this irreplacable precious resource. Water is trapped in plastic bags that can't decompose. Water consumption is still wasteful in nature. Rivers are polluted by industries plotting to escape detention.

The earth's surface is covered by 71% salt water. The rivers and the ocean are key to our survival and yet -

We continue to live on borrowed water.

C'est la vie!


For statistics on water resources, check here. Even more thought provoking and relevant to the topic above, have a look at stats on water pollution , water management and more.

I live in a country where water is in abundance, the ancient rain forest and warm seas surround us - yet even I fear this water reality.

dimanche, août 22, 2010

Pantun Oh Pantun

Jikalau tidak kerana bintang
Masakan bulan terbit tinggi
Jikalau tidak kerana abang
Masakan adik datang ke sini

If not for the stars above
Why would the moon venture high
If not for you, my only love
Why would I venture nigh...

(Adapted translation by Francois Rene Daillie)

Today, I am in love with the Malay pantun and literature especially the Malay Hikayat penned by unknown authors in the 16th and 17th centuries if not before. However, growing up, this branch of literature was only a pastime reading among the many poetry and fairytales of the world. Like many children, I read Grimms, Perrault and Anderson fairy tales. Mother Goose rhymes. A little bit of Malay Hikayat, Arabian. Chinese. Indian. Korean. For many years I wrote English poems and poetry, English prose, and lately English books - even though the subject is the Malay Hikayat.

As a child, I was adequately acquainted with the Malay pantun. Despite the fact my grandmother dished out her age old wisdom in pantun and gurindam form.

Siapa cepat dia dapat.

Tak tumbuh taka melata
Tak sungguh orang tak mengata

Sikit sikit
Lama lama jadi bukit

After all, I had only learnt to speak, read and write the Malay language when I was six after we returned to Malaysia from Australia. Still, once I went to live with my grandparents in our village for two years to learn our roots and religion studies, as my mother put it, I immersed myself in this way of life. I danced the Malay dances - the joget, endang, zapin. I loved Malay theatre performances like Wayang Kulit and Makyong. I played the gamelan. And took boat trips along the lazy rivers in my village. The Malay way of life slowly shaped my growing years.

Then, perchance, many years later, I found the book, Alam Pantun Melayu - A Study of The Malay Pantun, written by Francois Rene Daillie at a sale organised by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka here in Kuala Lumpur.

Monsieur Daillie wrote in the first chapter - The Malay Pantun as an Adventure in World Literature, "I have always conceived literature as an adventure, that is, etymologically, something that happens to you, that you have to go through...happenings which have an impact on your intellect, your spirit... To me, the encounter with the Malay pantun has been until now one of the most striking episodes as well as one the main elements of the whole adventure of life... of life and literature closely mixed together."

I was astounded by this man's love for the Malay pantun, which to him, was part and parcel of the Malay way of life and thinking. He shared his philosophy and research in a completely lucid and loving manner. This was the spark. By and by, I embraced my own culture - especially the pantun with alacrity.

Since then, I have studied and appreciated the Malay Pantun like never before. Find my Malay pantun here. I found my thoughts reflected so well by Monsieur F R Daillie when he says in his book, "...the pantun has never obtained the fame it deserves, in spite of its introduction into French XIXth century poetry under the adulterated name, 'pantoum'." I now agree with Monsieur Daillie that more should be done so that the Malay Pantun be internationally acclaimed for its ingenuity, form and sheer beauty. How unfortunate it is that the charm and enigma of the pantun is only appreciated and recognised within our Nusantara. The pantun of old can be witty, passionate to the point of being downright erotic, full of wisdom and hilariously comedic in nature and was an excellent tool for getting one's point across, an ice breaker or for conveying a subtle message.

The pantun has many forms. It covers love, wisdom, wit and comedy, stories anad more. There are also the Baba Nyonya Pantun and Persian syair. The first and foremost requirement in creating pantun is a keen observation of one's surroundings. The second, the conversion of this observation into a metaphor. Then the actual message of the pantun is conveyed in the formal form of the pantun. A pantun can be a 4 line, 6 line or 8 line stanza of the abab, abcabc or the abcdabcd form. In its most elegant form, the first half of the stanza is usually a metaphor or indication of what is to come in the second half. In the pantun berkait, the second alternating lines are repeated in the following stanza.

The pantun berkait was introduceed to French poets and novelists of the 19th century like Victor Hugo and Baudelaire. Many tried to emulate the form and structure which gave rise to the French avatar of the Malay pantun, the pantoum. To Daillie, "If one of the assets of poetry at its best is the magic and beauty accomplished by language, the Malay pantun can be placed among the highest achievements of mankind in this form of art... the Malay pantun, as one of the fixed forms of poetry ever devised by man, can vie with such famous genres as the Japanese haiku or the European sonnet."

I would like to invite interested poets and readers, , to learn about the pantun. Do read this beautiful indepth study of the Malay pantun by a Frenchman who certainly has only admiration, a delightful insight and respect for this form of literature that his book arouses an even stronger sense of pride in ourselves and our literature.

It is very often through the eyes of a 'foreigner' that we can become reacquainted with what we have become accustomed to or taken for granted all our lives.

Let us hope that the art of pantun will remain forever. I would hate to think my children would only get to listen to pantun at Malay Weddings. Or my unborn grandchildren, none at all.

Suggested reading for this article:
Alam Pantun Melayu by Francois Rene Daillie
Le Malaisie by Henri Fauconnier

dimanche, août 15, 2010

The Inner Eye

How many see the heavens above and fail to see God?

This week, over at Poets United, poets all over were prompted to wax lyrical over the subject of eyes. For my take on the prompt, come over . Somehow, I went a bit off tangent and did a tribute to one of my favourite authors growing up, Agatha Christie.

However, it came to my notice that many of the bloggers wrote about the fear of losing our eye sight. Poets are almost always avid readers and as such, this is a very real fear indeed. Imagine a world without words running over the unblemished of white expense. A true tragedy.

This fear and the inexcapable terror that comes with blindness sparked off this rather philosophical post of mine. For if you really think about it, what is sight without insight?

How many see the forest and hear dams instead of tigers roaring in the distance?

How many walk past a broken down playground and miss the sound of children's laughter?

How many start great wars and yet do not see the fallen, just the outcome?

How many face an old relic and see a new shopping mall?

How many appreciate the art on the wall but fail to recognise nature's true beauty?

How many see and yet do not see what matters the most.

jeudi, août 12, 2010


Do you remember the first day you fasted?

I do.

I was seven years old in Standard One in Kuantan. It was the last day of Ramadhan. I remember my uncles teasing me that if I did not fast, I won't be able to celebrate Raya. Raya meant balik Chenor, main mercun, hugging my grandfather, being spoilt silly by my grandmother. It meant playing in the garden in the moonlight while the lemang was cooking.

So I fasted on the last day without anyone knowing. When I got back from school in the afternoon, I was dead tired. I wanted desperately for someone to know, but I was too shy to say it. Finally, I heard my Auntie Yah say,"Budak Na ni puasa ke? Pucat je...Tik! I think Nina is still fasting!" Tik is my mother. She came to ask, " Are you fasting, Nina?" I just nodded.

Ooohhh...everyone made a fuss. I felt very good inside. I can't remember what we had for breaking fast, but I remember the pride I felt. Thereafter, I fasted more and more days each year.

When I was in secondary school, I was in the band and gymnastics. Somehow, it was important to me that I still train during the fasting months. After band practice in the afternoon, I would walk up three flight of stairs to my dormitory. I felt invigorated.

In Canada, we fasted from 4.30am to 8.45pm in the summer. But I did not tire. I was spurred to do more as the days were longer.

Today, I find, during the fasting month, my mind is the clearest. My prayers are focused. I do not worry about lunch. I do not worry about petty office squabbles. I work, work and work. Incidentally, I noticed that for the last few years, I also write the most during the days approaching Raya. I used to think this was because the Hari Raya reminds me of the traditional music, my kampung and the food. Now I believe it is because Ramadhan releases me from petty concerns. And what I love the most comes forth , pouring from a chalice of inspiration.

Thank you Ramadhan.

During sahur today, my daughter Irani was telling me about her fasting experience. Her friends told her that all the devils are locked away during Ramadhan. Her Uztazah told her that you should not be quarreling too much with each should think of good thoughts and deeds. I liked that.
Then she also told me that one of her teachers had asked all students to watch TV during bulan puasa as she pitied the young students. I immediately went into my famous small talks with my daughters which they half feared, half hated but remembered well so much so I hear them repeating the exact same words to their younger sisters.

I told Irani sternly, when you fast, you are strongest. Why? she asked. Because you are healthier, closer to God and all the devils are locked away. How can you not be stronger?

She nodded.

Well, this is my way of teaching my children.
Another favorite memory from my past Ramadhans was my late grandfather reading the Al-Quran in the middle of the night, his voice booming into the silence was one of the most serene moments in my life.

samedi, août 07, 2010


The first time I heard Adi Putra recite this sajak, I cried.

Aku lah Adi Putra
Melayu tidak pernah lupa

Aku berfikir rasional
Aku berfikir internasional

Hujan biarlah bertempat
Marah biar bersopan
Kurang ajar biarlah berbudi bahasa

Tersirat mereka tak nampak
Tersurat saja mereka lihat
Di mana silapnya

Ayuh bangsaku! Bangunlah...
Kita jadikan Melayu hebat dipersada dunia
Akulah model insan anak Melayu jati Wawasan 2020

Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia
Pantang Melayu menderhaka pada Sultannya

Mengapa bersembunyi diri di sebalik ibu pertiwi
sejengkalpun tanahair ku di jajah
Biar puteh tulang jangan puteh mata
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